The Morning Report
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Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner met with Mexican national Jose Susumo Azano Matsura at Azano’s Coronado estate weeks before Azano is alleged to have spent $340,000 in illegal donations to Filner’s successful mayoral bid, according to a source who witnessed the meeting and who would only speak on the condition of anonymity.
Lobbyist Marco Polo Cortes and former San Diego Police Department detective Ernesto Encinas also attended the meeting, the source said. Federal law enforcement officials allege Cortes and Encinas worked to illegally funnel a Mexican national’s money to local campaigns over the past two years. Azano and Filner are not specifically named in the federal complaints, but are widely believed to be involved.
Azano, the source said, brought in a chef from the high-end Nobu sushi restaurant chain to cater the meeting. Filner and Azano did not discuss fundraising during the meeting, the source said. But immediately after the meeting, and multiple times following, the source overheard Cortes and Encinas say Azano might be interested in funding an independent expenditure on Filner’s behalf.
It’s illegal for foreign nationals to donate money to American campaigns.
Two weeks after the Azano meeting, Cortes and Encinas escorted Filner to around 15 downtown bars and restaurants on a walking fundraiser, said the source, who also witnessed this meeting.
The source’s account is supported by a copy of Filner’s campaign calendar separately obtained by Voice of San Diego.
The calendar lists a “meet and greet” on Aug. 17 with Cortes and someone identified on the calendar as “Mr. Affano,” a misspelling of Azano, the source confirmed. The calendar also lists a “Walking the Gaslamp” meeting with Cortes and Encinas on Sept. 1.
A month after the Gaslamp fundraiser, federal law enforcement officials allege Cortes, Encinas and others approached a representative of Filner’s campaign about social media spending to assist his mayoral bid. The Filner representative agreed to the spending even though that person knew it would be illegally off the books, the complaints say. Soon after, the complaint alleges Azano’s company gave a campaign consultant $190,000 for social media to support Filner.
Around the same time, a straw donor working on behalf of Azano, reportedly La Jolla car dealer Marc Chase, donated $120,000 through his companies to an independent expenditure that supported Filner and $30,000 to the Democratic Party on Filner’s behalf, the complaints said.
Both Azano and Filner, who is serving three months of house arrest stemming from charges related to a sexual harassment scandal, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Lawyers for Cortes and Encinas declined to comment.
Encinas worked as a San Diego police officer for more than three decades before retiring in 2009. He’s since started his own security firm that primarily handled bars and restaurants downtown. Federal officials say Encinas also handled security for the Mexican national believed to be Azano. Cortes is a San Diego lobbyist who worked on behalf of entertainment and towing companies, among others.